Braun: Best Of The Bunch
On March 16th, I know most of you can't remember as far back as September 16th, but trust me on March 16th I wrote a piece that I titled Who is #3? At the time there was a pretty general consensus that Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez were the top-2 options in the fantasy game. Proving yet again that this is far from an exact science, Pujols had a solid but unspectacular season for him (.299-37-99-105-9), whereas Ramirez struggled mightily before finally succumbing to shoulder surgery (.243-10-45-55-20 in 92 games).
Since there was no consensus as to who should have been drafted #3 overall I went through a bunch of names up for consideration at that spot in the above linked piece before I settled on Ryan Braun. Before I get to Braun and what was obviously a spectacular call by me (I'm so modest), let me list the reasons why I was concerned with the other options, and then give the figures to back up what I thought.
“Some think it should be Miguel Cabrera. He worries me because of his off the field issues.” Looks like the boozing just isn't an issue after all. He hit a robust .344, and though he hit 30 homers with 105 RBI the homer total was a five year low while his RBI total was the worst he's ever had in eight full seasons.
Troy Tulowitzki: “...I’m troubled by the fact that he has played less than 125 games in two of the past three years .“ He played more games than I thought he might, 143, but injuries limited him to three year lows in runs scored (81), steals (nine), OBP (.372) and SLG (.544). He still had a great year though.
Carlos Gonzalez: “...hit .289 with eight homers on the road last year and he’s only had one season of significance in the big leagues." He was even worse in 2011 on the road hitting .252 with a .757 OPS. He still had a great year considering he played in 127 games (.295-26-92-92-20), but everything predictably regressed.
Evan Longoria: “ I think he’s the top third baseman this year, but I don’t think third base is as shallow as some think.” 50/50 here. Third base was even more shallow than we thought as everyone was injured at one point or another. With a late season power surge he finished the year with 31 homers and 99 RBI to place himself amongst the best at the position, but he also hit a career worst .244 and stole a career low three bags.
“What about Joey Votto or Robinson Cano? Nope.” Both players had great efforts, no if's, and's or but's about it, but neither rose to the level of being the #3 selection.
Votto: .309-29-103-101-8 with a .947 OPS Cano: .302-28-118-104-8 with a .882 OPS
“Roy Halladay? Don’t get crazy on me. “ Halladay was typically grand, but he may not have even been the best pitcher on his own team (Cliff Lee posted virtually identical numbers).
All of that leads to Ryan Braun. Here are the points I made with Braun (you can get more detail from the initial piece).
(1) Consistency/Across the board production. For the 5th straight year he hit better than .285 with more than 25 homers, 97 RBI, 91 runs and 14 steals. He produced a 5x5 line of .332-33-111-109-33 in what was his best season of a stupendous career.
(2) Health. The previous three seasons Braun had appeared in 151 or more games. He missed out in 2011, but I'll take the 150 total he played in every year.
(3) Upside. I mentioned in the previous piece that if you took the career bests for Braun in the main five fantasy categories you'd end up with a season of .324-37-114-113-20. How did he do in 2011? He bettered the average at .332. He fell just short in the homer, RBI and runs scored categories with 33, 111 and 109. Still, that's pretty damn close ain't it? The kicker is that he went for 33 steals, just one less than he posted in 2009 and 2010.
Braun wasn't just the best choice as the #3 selection this year, he actually ended the year as the second best fantasy performer behind only Matt Kemp (.324-39-126-115-40). And you wanted to drafted Troy Tulowitzki...
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 5-8 PM EDT and Sunday 7-10 PM EDT), Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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